COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE OF THE INALIENABLE
RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 26th MEETING
Held at Headquarters, New York,
on Tuesday, 10 January 1978 at 10.30 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. FALL (Senegal)
Adoption of the agenda
Election of officers
Organization of work
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The meeting was called to order at 11 a.m.
ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
1. The agenda was adopted.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
2. Mr. ABDALLAH (Tunisia), proposing that the officers for 1977 should be re-elected for 1978, proposed Mr. Fall (Senegal) for the office of Chairman, Mr. Alarcón de Quesada (Cuba) and Mr. Siddiq (Afghanistan) as Vice-Chairmen, and Mr. Gauci (Malta) as Rapporteur.
3. Mr. DOUKOURE (Guinea) and Mr. GEORGESCU (Romania) seconded the nominations.
4. Mr. Fall (Senegal) was re-elected Chairman, Mr. Alarcón de Quesada (Cuba) and Mr. Siddiq (Afghanistan) were re-elected Vice-Chairmen, and Mr. Gauci (Malta) was re-elected Rapporteur.
5. The CHAIRMAN announced that the delegation of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam had expressed the desire to participate in the work of the Committee as an Observer. If he heard no objections, he would take it that the Committee decided to invite that delegation to participate in its work in that capacity.
6. It was so decided.
7. The CHAIRMAN announced that the communiqué issued on 4 January 1978 by the Co-ordinating Bureau of Non-Aligned Countries concerning the assassination of Mr. Said Hamami, representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in London, had been issued as a document of the General Assembly and the Security Council (A/33/52-S/12517). On behalf of the Committee, he wished to endorse the views expressed in the communiqué and the condolences extended to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the family of Mr. Hamami.
8. Mr. TERZI (Observer for the Palestine Liberation Organization) thanked the Chairman for the condolences expressed on behalf of the Committee.
ORGANIZATION OF WORK
9. The CHAIRMAN recalled that operative paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 32/40 A had authorized the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the implementation of its recommendations, to send delegations or representatives to international conferences where such representation would be considered by it to be appropriate, and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its thirty-third session. The Committee should now decide how best to implement the mandate conferred by that paragraph and how to ensure that the Security Council took a decision as soon as possible on the recommendations endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 31/20, as it was urged to do in operative paragraph 4 of General Assembly resolution 32/40 A. The Committee's other main task in 1978 would be to help the Special Unit on Palestinian Rights established by the General Assembly in its resolution 32/40 B to organize the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People provided for in operative paragraph 1 (c) of that resolution. He suggested that the Task Force should be instructed to draw up a draft programme of work for 1978 accordingly.
10. Mr. GAUCI (Malta) said that the task of the Committee in 1978 would be delicate and difficult. Malta was firmly committed to upholding the just cause of the Palestinian people and viewed its participation in the Committee as a duty that could not be shirked. The Maltese delegation was, however, small in size and had many commitments. Moreover, he expected other duties to require his frequent absence from Headquarters in 1978. Since he was Rapporteur he suggested that, in order to enable the Task Force to carry out its work effectively, the Committee should agree in advance that in his absence, it should be authorized to meet under one of the two Vice-Chairmen. As the Task Force often had to meet at short notice, such a flexible arrangement was essential. The Task Force should meet as soon as possible in order to hold an informal exchange of views regarding its work in the months ahead.
11. The CHAIRMAN observed that the arrangements suggested by the representative of Malta had been used the previous year. He would take it that the Committee wished to authorize the Task Force to proceed in the manner he had outlined earlier.
12. It was so decided.
13. Mr. TERZI (Observer for the Palestine Liberation Organization) recalled that, in March 1977, the Palestine National Council had decided to consider the recommendations contained in the report submitted by the Committee to the General Assembly at its thirty-first session (A/31/35) as a positive and progressive step towards the achievement of the aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return and the right to self-determination, independence and national sovereignty. Its decision had been reproduced in the report submitted by the Committee to the General Assembly at its thirty-second session (A/32/35, para. 13), which the General Assembly had endorsed in its resolution 32/40.
14. The rights of the Palestinian people continued to be those defined in General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX) and constituted the basis for the Committee's work. According to the report submitted by the Committee to the General Assembly at its thirty-first session, the natural and inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes was recognized by General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and had been unanimously recognized by the Security Council in its resolution 237 (1967), and the time for the urgent implementation of those resolutions was long overdue (A/31/35, para. 66).
15. In recent weeks, however, events had taken place in the Middle East which merely aggravated the plight of the Palestinian people. On no occasion had the parties to the latest peace negotiations made any reference to the right of return of the Palestinian people. One of the Co-Chairmen of the Peace Conference on the Middle East, the United States, had made a point of mentioning the territorial implications of the 1967 war as referred to in Security Council resolution 242 (1967) but had ignored all references to Security Council resolution 237 (1967), General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and subsequent General Assembly resolutions. His delegation therefore believed that the Committee should reaffirm the position expressed in its report to the thirty-first session of the General Assembly and that the President of the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations should remind the parties to the current negotiations of the recommendations made by the Committee in that report and endorsed by the General Assembly in resolution 31/20.
16. The current situation in the Middle East was further aggravated by the fact that the parties to the negotiations were also negating the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, a right which the Committee had reaffirmed in paragraph 70 of its report (A/31/35). That paragraph stated that the Palestinian people had the inherent right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty in Palestine, thereby reaffirming the provisions of General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX). The aim of the current negotiations was to deny completely the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, indeed, since November 1977, the question of Palestinian self-determination had been made to appear as an obstacle to a settlement in the Middle East. The adoption of such a position by countries which claimed to be working for a lasting peace in the Middle East was clearly unacceptable.
17. One Co-Chairman of the Peace Conference refused to use the expression "self- determination", which had very precise connotations, in relation to Palestine. The most that it would concede was that the Palestinian people should have a say in determining their own future. Yet the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as reaffirmed by the Committee and the General Assembly, meant that the Palestinian people should be able to determine their future on their own.
18. On behalf of Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), he wished to express his confidence that the Committee would reaffirm its position and that the President of the Security Council and the Secretary- General of the United Nations would reaffirm the principles contained in the various General Assembly resolutions on the subject of Palestinian self-determination.
19. At the same time, the United Nations Office of Public Information should take immediate steps to circulate widely the recommendations of the Committee endorsed by the General Assembly, so that the general public as a whole would know that the current peace negotiations were designed to obstruct the implementation of General Assembly resolutions, thereby thwarting all attempts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The PLO, for its part, would continue to place its trust in the international community.
20. The CHAIRMAN said that the Committee had not taken an official stand on important developments which had taken place recently in the Middle East because at the time, its legal status had been in some doubt, since, under the terms of General Assembly resolution 31/20, its mandate expired with the submission of its report to the General Assembly. Only subsequently had the General Assembly acted to extend the Committee's mandate. The position of the Committee with regard to the question of Palestine was clear and reflected the position of the United Nations as a whole. The question of Palestine was at the very heart of the Middle East problem, and the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies had recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Committee had taken a number of decisions relating to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to return to their homeland. Those decisions, which had been endorsed by the General Assembly, continued to serve as the basis for the Committee's work. As the representative of the PLO had stated, the initiatives undertaken recently in the Middle East were not based on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, return to their homeland and the establishment of a Palestinian State. In view of those initiatives, there was a need for the Committee to restate its support for those rights and he invited the comments of members as to the form its action should take.
21. Mr. ALLAF (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the re-election of the Committee's officers was proof that the United Nations remained steadfast in its support of the legitimate and inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people in spite of initiatives undertaken outside the framework of the United Nations and the agreed machinery for achieving a settlement of the Middle East problem. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 32/40 A, the Committee had been authorized to continue to exert all efforts to promote the implementation of its recommendations, and it must not, therefore, stand idly by in the face of developments which were contrary to those recommendations and did not have the support of all the peoples concerned, in particular, the Palestinian people and their legitimate representative, the PLO. That organization had been recognized not only by the Arab countries, OAU and the non-aligned countries but also by the General Assembly, the supreme organ of the United Nations, and by the Security Council, which had authorized the representatives of the PLO to attend meetings at which the Middle East question and the question of Palestine were discussed.
22. The essential points of a Middle East settlement were the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and return to their homeland and the right of all Arab peoples to recover the territories which had been occupied by the aggressor. The Committee must not lend its support to or condone bilateral and partial negotiations regarding the fate of the Palestinian territory conducted in the absence of the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Secretary-General had recognized the partial character of those negotiations and had rightly called for the convening of a more broadly-based conference under United Nations auspices with the participation of all the parties concerned, including the PLO. The purpose of the bilateral negotiations, however, was to reach separate agreements while ostensibly seeking a comprehensive peace settlement. A comprehensive settlement could only be achieved with the participation of the Palestinian people and all the other Arab countries directly involved. He therefore suggested that the Committee should send notes to the countries involved in separate deals and side activities in order to remind them of the principles laid down by the United Nations as a basis for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It should also contact, through the Chairman, the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council in order to draw their attention to the danger of initiatives which were contrary to resolutions of United Nations bodies.
23. A second area on which the Committee could focus its attention in 1978 was public information. The dissemination of the truth about the Palestinian situation and publicity regarding United Nations resolutions should be stepped up, and OPI and the new Special Unit on Palestinian Rights should be requested to expose the true nature of the recent initiatives. His delegation was shocked that some big Powers opposed the establishment of an independent Palestinian State when they had voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) calling for the establishment in Palestine of an Arab State side by side with a Jewish State. Public opinion in the United States should be informed that the Government of that country had been committed for 30 years to the establishment of a Palestinian State, a fact which Zionist propaganda over the past three decades had endeavoured to cover up. In addition, the right of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland, to which so little attention was paid, needed to be more widely publicized.
24. Mr. KANTE (Mali) expressed his condolences to the PLO following the assassination of the PLO representative in London. He also expressed the hope that 1978 would witness the triumph of the long struggle of the Palestinian people, despite current attempts to call in question the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, the legitimacy of the PLO and the right of Palestinians to return to their homes, as reaffirmed by the United Nations since 1948.
25. He agreed with the Chairman that the Committee should take steps as soon as possible to reaffirm United Nations decisions and to implement the relevant General Assembly resolutions. There was also a need to intensify the dissemination of information concerning the Palestinian problem. He therefore suggested that a comprehensive document of a practical nature should be prepared as soon as possible by the Bureau or the Secretary of the Committee with a view to informing world public opinion.
26. Mr. EL-SAID (Observer for Egypt), reiterating his country's position on the Middle East problem, said that there could be only one solution and that it must be a comprehensive one based on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Arab territories and the exercise by the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination. President Anwar El-Sadat of Egypt had reiterated that position on many occasions. With his latest initiative he had taken a very courageous step in an effort to achieve a breakthrough in the stalemate on procedural questions, and had decided to convene a preparatory conference at Cairo to undertake preliminary negotiations for the convening of the Geneva Conference. To that preparatory conference, Egypt had invited all the parties concerned, including representatives of the PLO and the United Nations. Unfortunately, some parties had failed to accept that invitation, for reasons which Egypt could not understand. If any party refused to take part in those negotiations and rejected any endeavour to reach a just and lasting peace in the region, it must bear responsibility before its people and the international community. Egypt, for its part, would pursue its endeavours in order to reach a just and lasting settlement in the interests of its people and the international community, regardless of the irresponsible attempt to hamper that process.
27. The CHAIRMAN said that, in the light of the discussion, the Task Force would be requested to prepare the following documents as speedily as possible: firstly, a letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly reaffirming the authority of the PLO, reminding him of the decisions taken and requesting him to support United Nations action to ensure the implementation of its resolutions; secondly, a letter addressed to the President of the Security Council, reminding him of the relevant decisions taken by the General Assembly and the Security Council and requesting him to watch over their implementation; thirdly, a letter addressed to the Secretary-General, drawing attention to the decisions of the Assembly and the Council and requesting him to mobilize the relevant departments under his authority, especially OPI, with a view to informing international opinion of those decisions; and finally, a telegram to be dispatched immediately to Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, expressing the Committee's solidarity with the PLO and recalling the position taken by the Committee with regard to the Middle East problem, a problem which required a comprehensive, not a partial, solution. The telegram would recall the decisions taken by the United Nations on the question of Palestine, which lay at the heart of the Middle East problem, to the effect that a solution should be found through the exercise of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to return to their homeland. All four documents would be distributed as United Nations documents, so that the Committee's position could be clearly brought to the attention of all Member States.
28. The Task Force would also be requested to discuss the appropriateness of addressing a communication to those countries involved in the negotiations, namely Egypt, Israel and the United States.
29. Mr. ALLAF (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that his delegation would prefer such a communication to be sent not only to the specific countries involved in the current negotiations but to all countries in the Middle East concerned with the Palestinian question. No distinction should be made between those now undertaking certain efforts and those that disagreed with those efforts, since it was inappropriate to recognize the current negotiations, which were contrary to United Nations resolutions. The communication should therefore be addressed to all the "confrontation States", as well as to the two co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference.
30. The CHAIRMAN agreed that that proposal was an improvement on the earlier proposal. He accordingly suggested that the Task Force should be requested to send a letter to all the "confrontation States", the PLO and the co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference. Wording might also be included to the effect that the Committee could not sanction any decision taken to the detriment of the PLO or without its participation; all decisions on the question of Palestine must be taken in the context of the full participation of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
31. It was so decided.
32. Mr. TERZI (Observer for the Palestine Liberation Organization) drew attention in that connexion to the Committee's second report (A/32/35), in paragraph 13 of which the Committee had noted that the Palestine National Council, at its meeting in Cairo in March 1977, had decided "to declare that any settlement or agreement affecting the rights of the Palestinian people concluded in its absence would be null and void".
The meeting rose at 12.30 p.m.